tv PBS News Hour PBS February 9, 2012 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: government officials and five big banks agreed today to a $25 billion deal to help millions of homeowners underwater on their mortgages. good evening, i'm jeffrey brown. >> suarez: and i'm ray suarez on the "newshour" tonight. we talk with two of the state attorneys general who helped shape the settlement. >> brown: then we update the political firestorm over the obama administration ruling requiring insurance plans to cover birth control. >> suarez: we examine europe's debt crisis from the perspective of two very different nations from greece, which has agreed to make deep austerity cuts. >> brown: and from germany, where margaret warner reports on the debate over bailing out other troubled countries. >> no one is happy about those
little stories about greece, how they are doing, that they are not paying their taxes, that they a little bit corrupt but >> suarez: and judy woodruff talks with author rachel simon about her novel, a love story told through the eyes of two people with disabilities. >> brown: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy productive life. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
>> suarez: after long months of negotiating, 49 states joined an agreement today over foreclosure abuses. u.s. attorney general eric holder announced the deal, in washington. >> it is the largest joint federal civil state settlement in the history of this nation. >> suarez: the news came even as foreclosed homes still litter the landscape. casualties of the housing bubble that burst in 2008. many people could not make their payments and were forced out. many others have struggled to keep up, even as the value of their homes fell far below what they owe. but attorney general holder said the $25 billion deal is designed to give relief to homeowners and to hold banks accountable for abusive practices. >> for instance, we saw far too often servicers pushed people into foreclosure far too often even though federal regulation
require servicers try other alternatives first. these failures didn't just hurt borrowers who might have been able to afford modified mortgages. they fueled the downward spiral of our economy and of communities nationwide. >> suarez: bank of america, jpmorgan chase, wells fargo, citigroup and ally financial are the five major mortgage lenders who've agreed to reduce loan amounts for nearly one million households. and they'll send $2,000 checks to 750,000 americans who were improperly foreclosed on. under the deal, the lenders are protected from many lawsuits tied to the foreclosure process. but states can still pursue criminal cases for the original lending practices. the settlement was hashed out over the last year and a half between the banks and state attorneys general. >> this agreement has more things to help homeowners than
anything we've seen before or we'll see again. >> the attorneys general realized the settlement is very very much in the interest of their state and the citizens of their state. >> suarez: between 2007 and early 2012 roughly four million american families lost their homes to foreclosure. and some housing activists say today's deal only scratches the surface. gordon whitman is with pico national network, a faith-based group. >> so it's a start, but it's a drop in the bucket. >> suarez: president obama acknowledged today the deal is just one step toward fixing the housing industry. >> no action no matter how meaningful is gonna by itself entirely heal the housing market. but this settlement is a start
and we're going to make sure banks live up to their end of bargain. if they don't we've set up an independent inspector, a monitor that has the power to make sure they pay exactly what they agreed to pay, plus a penalty if they fail to act. >> suarez: oklahoma was the only state not to sign onto the deal. it reached a separate agreement with the banks. >> brown: we're joined now by two attorneys general who became key dealers in this deal. eric schneiderman of new york and tom horne of arizona. eric schneiderman, i'll start with you. we've seen a number of attempts to respond to the housing market crisis. how important do you think this is? >> i think this is the most significant step so far. but as the president said today and as you just replayed, this is just a step towards the kind of accountability for the folks who blew up the economy, the kind of meaningful relief for homeowners and investors that's
required and putting in place of a set of rules so this never happens again. we're on a path to restore the housing market, to write down principle for homeowners and ensure there's one set of rules for everyone. important step but a step on a longer path. >> brown: tom horne, yours has been a very hard hit state. who do you see this helping and how? >> well, the primary beneficiaries would be those who are in their homes and are current... have paid their payments for at least a year but who face difficulty doing that in the future in the full amount but they can pay less than the full amount. and the largest component of the settlement would give money to reduced principle payments and some also to refinance and reduce interest payments for these people so they'll be able to stay in their home. that's very important for them. it's also better for the lenders because the present value to them of those reduced payments is going to be more than what they would get if they proceeded
to foreclose. so it's a win for the person who gets to stay in his home or her home. it's a win for the lender and it's certainly a win for the economy. in the case of arizona, $1.6 billion will come into our economy to prop up a very important part of our economy, the housing market. >> brown: eric schneiderman, just to help people, again, to try to make this very concrete, what does someone have to do or what kind of position do they have to be in to qualify for this help? >> well, there is a variety-- and some of it varies from state to state. the first relief we're going to see here in new york, where we have a smaller portion of folks who have underwater mortgages than general horne does in arizona, first relief they're going to see is that we obtain $136 million that's going to go primarily towards legal services housing counseling and programs to prevent people from being foreclosed on. the second level of relief
that's going to take longer to imspleplt that the banks are required to reach out to people with underwater mortgages, whose mortgages are more expensive than the value of the homes right now, which is what general horne was referring to, and offer them a chance to either refinance or reduce the principle. not everyone is going to get a deal but there's a requirement that we've put on the banks that they're going to make those solicitations. so people should be aware of that. we've set up contacts in all the regional offices of the new york state attorney general. i know some of my counterparts are doing the same thing. we will be providing the messages to the public. but the first step is to try and prevent foreclosures where they're not warranted. second step is the program of principle reduction and loan modification that's going to be going into effect. >> reporter: tom horne we heard the housing advocate and you're hearing it all over t place today refer to it as a "drop in the bucket." i wonder, do you think he is wrong if you look at $25 billion quite small compared to the $700
billion in negative equity out there. people getting $2,000 compared to the value of the homes that they have lost in many cases. is that fellow wrong in saying this is just a drop in the bucket? >> well, first of all, the $2 plus or minus will go to people who have already been foreclosed on. they don't have to give up anything for that. they still have their rights to bring lawsuits if they were badly treated by the servicers at the time. they don't have to give up those rights. all they have to do is say they were badly treated by the servicer and they get the $2 the other sums, we're talking about $25 billion. you'll remember it was once said a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it's real money. this is very significant. if we had proceeded with the lawsuits, it would have been about four or five years before we go through the lawsuit and the appeals and if we had done better, that would have been good but we could have done worse and that would have been a terrible thing to have done
worse and lost four or five years when people were thrown out of their homes where otherwise they would have been saved with their mortgages. so i think this was a very prudent agreement. we in arizona didn't actually agree until 11:00 last night on an agreement announced at 8:00 this morning because we had special things we had to work out with bank of america. so we negotiated very hard. but in the end i think this is a very prudent agreement as a settlement of what otherwise would have been lawsuits that might have brought us more but might have brought us less. >> brown: eric schneiderman, you held out for a long time on this as well. explain what your concerns were. >> well, my concern, really, is reflected in the comment that general horne just made. i was concerned about giving up claims and it's very important to understand that homeowners still do have the right to go into court themselves and part of the provision of legal services for people is that people... individuals that were wronged still can seek damages. we have not given up their claims. and my concern all along was that we not release claims that haven't been investigated and
that the settlement be limited to issues like robosigning, release of claims for misconduct and foreclosure proceedings. when i got involved in the negotiations a year ago, the banks were really pushing for a release of the broad misconduct, the securities fraud and tax fraud and other conduct that actually melted down the american economy in 2008. we have preserved all of those claims and president obama in the state of the union announced that we are, in fact, going to have a joint state/federal working group to conduct a full investigation of those claims in a more comprehensive, coordinated way than we've ever done and i'm one of the co-chairs. so the important thing in evaluating a settlement is partly to look at how much money you get. and it's true, this is a very small portion of the negative equity that's out there. it's a step, but just a step on the path. in evaluating it, you have to look at what claims you're giving up. what are you getting for what you're giving up? in this case i'm confident we held out for and fought to have the claims preserved that give us the most leverage to go back to the folks that blew up the
american economy and get more meaningful relief for both homeowners and investors that were further that debacle. >> brown: are you confident as well that these practices, the very kinds of things you were just talking about and caused the problem in the first place, are you confident now that those have ended? >> certainly in terms of what's going on in the securities market those have ended and there was a response to that with dodd-frank, the federal government has passed new rules. we now have the consumer financial protection bureau being set up to deal with some of these problems. i'm confident if we continue to push forward with that we can put into effect prudent regulations so that the overwhelming majority of folks in the financial services sector who just want to play by the rules and make money for themselves and their clients can prosper. but the race to the bottom that took place in 2005, 2006 and 2007 when there were packages of mortgages that just never should have been made and securities that never should have been
sold, that kind of thing has to be prevented in the future we preserved all our claims to go back after the folks who who committed any breach of law, whether it's tax fraud, securities fraud, investment fraud or insurance fraud during that era and our working group is very aggressively pursuing those claims. >> if i could add to that. >> brown: go ahead. >> an important part of this settlement, which is dealing with misconduct by people who are servicing the mortgages, the five biggest banks, is a reform of the methods used by the servicers. so you had abuses such as one person from the bank worked out with the home own err modification so he was make regular deuced payments and the homeowner was making reduced payments doing everything he was supposed to do and someone else from the bank would foreclose and he would find even though he was doing everything he was supposed to do his house was foreclosed on. those practices are being reformed so that you have one person you're dealing with so if they deny the modification you can appeal it. a number of other reforms and the way these things are
implemented and that will be monitored and there are strict penalties for not living up to the new guidelines. in addition to the $25 billion, which i think is very significant and important for our economy, there are significant reforms in the way the loans are as much ased and it does a way the lot of abuses behind that. >> pelley: attorney general tom horne of arizona and eric schneiderman of new york, thank you both very much. >> thank you for having me. >> suarez: still to come on the "newshour": fallout from the birth control ruling; greece's spending cuts; germany's debate over bailing out its neighbors and a novel that explores how society treats people with disabilities. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: president obama granted waivers to ten states today-- excusing them from requirements of the "no child left behind" law. the law mandated that all public school students be proficient in reading and math by 2014. but opponents said the goal was unrealistic, and that schools falling short were being punished unfairly.
republicans said the president was overreaching his authority, in granting the waivers. states given a waiver will have to set new targets for improving student performance. the u.s. house has overwhelmingly approved its version of a bill that bans members of congress from insider stock trading. it also affects officials in the executive branch. the issue gathered steam after a cbs report last fall that lawmakers were enriching themselves by trading on information not available to the public. house majority leader eric cantor wrote the measure. >> people in this country have the right to know and trust that officials in this government are living under the same rules they are. if there is even the slightest appearance of impropriety, we ought to go ahead and prevent that from taking place. >> sreenivasan: house republicans rejected a provision that requires so-called political intelligence firms to register the same as lobbyists. those companies collect information from lawmakers, and
then, sell it to wall street firms. democrats like sheila jackson lee argued the house should have followed the senate's lead, and included that language. >> we are missing a large gap, madame speaker, by leaving out the provision on political intelligence-- a $100 million industry. yes, we're going to support this legislation, but we can't get to conference soon enough to make this bill comparable and ready for the american people. the house and senate will have to work out a compromise version of the bill. white house officials have said the president will sign it with or without the political intelligence section. wall street managed only modest gains today. the dow jones industrial average added six points to close at 12,890. the nasdaq rose 11 points to close at 2,927. in syria, the casualties climbed ever higher in the city of homs. opposition groups reported at least 100 people were killed, as government forces blasted away again with artillery, mortars and rockets. rebel fighters tried to resist, but were largely outgunned. we have a report from lindsey
hilsum of "independent television news" from neighboring lebanon. >> reporter: their target is a syrian army checkpoint on a road near homs, just out of sight. the men of the free syrian army have only light weapons. they're inexperienced, and have neither the numbers nor the firepower they need. at night, the women mourn the fighters who are losing their lives everyday. "bashir al assad is a dog," she cries. each death makes them hate the government more. a few miles away in homs, the shelling has made civilian life hell. families cower inside, this is the sixth day of bombardment. local men pull the injured and dead from houses blown apart by rockets and mortars. the activist danny abdul dayim wants the world outside to know what's happening in homs.
"there's bodies in that house, pieces of bodies in that house. this is a civilian house." medical supplies to treat wounded children are running out. "five children from the same family. five children from the same family. i appeal to the people of aleppo and damascus to take to the streets to put pressure on this criminal regime." activists in idlib took these pictures of tanks on the streets. the rebels had been in control here, but for how much longer. there's a diplomatic impasse, and the syrian government is making the most of it. >> sreenivasan: u.s. officials said they were considering ways to get food and medicine to the people of homs. but it was unclear how that might work. the u.s. marine corps scrambled today to explain a photo of marines in afghanistan posing with what looks like the nazi s.s. symbol. the image was taken in 2010. it showed marines with an
american flag and another banner displaying a double lightning bolt logo. that same symbol was used by nazi s.s. forces that murdered millions of jews and others in world war two. a marine spokeswoman said the marines thought the symbol stood for sniper scouts. the nuclear regulatory commission has approved the nation's first new nuclear power plant in more than 30 years. the vote today endorsed a plan to build two new reactors south of augusta, georgia. the last time the commission approved construction of a nuclear plant was in 1978-- a year before the partial meltdown at three mile island in pennsylvania. labor rights protesters called on tech giant apple today to improve conditions at chinese factories run by apple suppliers. in washington, the ethical iphone group delivered nearly 200,000 petition signatures. there were similar events in a half dozen other cities around the world. apple has come under renewed pressure over reports of cramped working conditions, long hours and high injury rates at chinese factories. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to ray.
>> suarez: and to the battle over contraception coverage. it's been nearly three weeks since the obama administration announced new regulations, but the stakes are higher as both sides harden their positions. from the capitol to the white house, the political heat has been rising all week over a new federal mandate on birth control. under the rule, religious schools and hospitals will have to offer insurance policies that include contraceptive services for employees, free of charge. roman catholic officials in particular say the rule would force them to violate church teachings. and, republicans in congress like new hampshire senator kelly ayotte have raised their voices. >> this is not a women's rights issue. this is a religious liberty issue. and it can apply to all faiths. >> suarez: in a floor speech wednesday, house speaker john boehner threatened legislative action, but it was unclear today what form that would take. >> i think the house is going to
work again through the regular order with real deliberations about how we protect the religious freedom of the american people. that's the issue and we're, we're keenly focused on it. >> suarez: women rights groups and many democrats like california senator barbara boxer are now coming to the administration's defense. >> women in this country are tired of being treated like a political football by republicans in congress. who have tried continually and have continued to try to take away their benefits. to take away their rights. >> suarez: white house officials seeking to defuse the issue suggest a still-undefined compromise is possible. tuesday, on the "newshour", the president's senior campaign strategist david axelrod pointed out that 28 states already have similar rules.
>> we're going to have a year's period of time in which to transition to this. and that will give us a chance to look at what these others-- how this is implemented elsewhere, how we can implement it here in the best and fairest way, but certainly advancing the principle that women deserve access to contraception, and those women, those teachers, >> suarez: the mandate is based on recommendations from the u.s. institute of medicine that showed reproductive health services without co-pays leads to better women's health. it was the second major birth control decision in recent weeks. in december, the administration barred selling the plan "b" contraceptive to girls 16 and younger, without a prescription. we debate the department of health and human service's decision now with anthony picarello, general counsel for the u.s. conference of catholic bishops. and jill warren, executive director of the methodist federation for social action. it is not an official united methodist church body.
guests, just a short time before tonight's program, the vice president of the united states, joe biden, said the white house is trying hard to address the concerns of the church "i'm determined to see that this gets worked out and i believe we can work it out." given the position of the church anthony picarello, and the current state of the ruling from the obama administration, is there a middle ground? can a compromise position be found that leaves both sides getting most but not all of what they want? >> well, the president and vice president, the executive branch, is entirely within... has this decision entirely within their control. so they can do what it is that we've been urging them to do from the outset, which is to remove the items from the mandate so people are not forced against their conscious to subsidize the women's health plans. they could also dramatically increase the breadth of what have is an extremely narrow religious exemption that they proposed in the first instance
which covers really only individual churches and basically a very small perimeter around that so it leaves out charities, it leaves out hospitalss, it leaves out schools so they have the power entirely within their hands to expand that. we've been hearing lots of talk for a long time about a desire to accommodate but we haven't seen any action and so i think we're going to wait until we see action.... >> suarez: but i'm trying to figure out what a broadened-- to use your term-- ruling might look like since the two positions are mutually contradictory. >> well, i don't know there's so much of a contradiction. i think, again, what we're looking for in terms of breadth is to protect the religious liberty interests and conscience of all of those who would be affected by the mandate. so that means employers, religious employers but also employers with religious people running them or people of conviction running them. religious insurers, and they do exist. they're required to include in
their policies they write things they don't agree as a matter of religious conviction and individuals who have to pay for it through their premiums. so all of those entities are the folks whose conscience rights are affected and the bishops are concerned with all of them and they've advocated for all of them. >> suarez: it sounds like you want something broader, not just colleges and universities and hospitals but even catholic employers. >> well, yes, because the principal here is that of religious liberty and it's not only religious employers entitled to religious liberty under the constitution. so all of those should be protected. they should not be put in this situation in the first place. they should not be required by the government to provide through sponsorship and subsidy benefits that are offensive to their moral beliefs. >> suarez: jill warren, is there a middle ground? is there a position that you can contemplate that gets mr. picarello more of what he wants without giving away something that you view as essential? >> well, first let me say how much i appreciate being able to be here on the show with you,
ray. and with anthony. the issue for me is that it's not about a religious exemption or creating some sort of compromise position. it's a position of health care and health care policy and that is different than religion. and even though i am part of a religious nonprofit, the united methodist church and the methodist federation for social action, we don't see this in any way as a religious issue. so for me in answer to your question, the compromise that might be fought by the roman catholic tradition isn't one that is of the best public good for all of us that would be covered by this policy. >> suarez: where does... when you hear mr. picarello talk about conscience, where does conscience attach at the nexus of three different entitys? ensurers, employers and the
ensured who all may want different things. >> that's right. yes, that's right. i think one of the points that i would like to make in our conversation is that we have a choice about what insurance we choose, whether we choose a sectarian plan or we choose a public plan. or whether we choose no plan at all or even have access to health care as an insurance option in the first place. so as an individual, i can choose what health plan i might most benefit from. i think that in this case there are insurers,-- as anthony has mentioned, and there are hospitals, but they are... there are already exemptions for conscience clauses and there are sectarian organizations who don't have to provide these services in the first place. >> suarez: so catholic insured could invoke different options
when given a list of possible insurers? >> well, i wish that were so. that's precisely the problem. what we have is a situation where the federal government has come in and mandated that certain things be included in all health insurance plans nationwide. this is private plans offered by religious institutions. this isn't government-only plan, this isn't plans offered by people who happen to be government funded. it's everybody. so that freedom to which she was refering is the freedom we're urging. it's not something that's extreme, only what we have currently which is when a religious entity wants to purchase a health insurance policy it goes an insurance company and says i want these things and not these things and the heavens have not fallen in the situations where we provide. that for example, right now even under the current pre-mandate environment nine out of ten employer-sponsored health insurance plans include contraception. so there's no scarcity of this coverage available. people can simply... they're not forced to work for the church.
if they value that benefit so much they can choose a different employer and if they work for the church.... >> suarez: let me jump in there. you noted the heavens haven't fallen and i don't know if they've fallen in the more than two dozen states where these mandates already exist. what have catholic institutions done to comply in places that already have similar strictures to the one just announced by the obama administration? >> i'm glad you asked that question because it's coming up a lot. there are 28 states that have some kind of contraceptive mandate. none are the ones as broad as the federal government has imposed. for example, all but... the federal government mandate includes a mandate to provide sterilization, only vermont does that among those 28 states. on top of that, most of those states have religious exemptions and of those all but three are broader than the one that h.h.s. has chosen. so basically there's a lot more accommodation for religious exercise at the state level and on top of that states don't even... you don't even need to take advantage of the religious exemption in order to avoid in the other ways.
for example, by self-insurance. even in the restrictive state miss catholic entities are able to avoid this by self-insurance. >> suarez: jill warren, you heard senator kelly ayotte say this is not a women's rights issue, not a women's issue, this is a religious liberty issue. what about the health interest that a lot of people on your side of the argument are talking about? >> well, obviously i have a difference of opinion. because it is a health issue. it's a basic health issue. contraception, controlling whether you can plan your family whether you can space your children, whether you want to have children is a basic health issue. it's a biological fact that women can be impregnated and against their will, i might add. so it absolutely is a health issue. barriers to education, barriers to the work force all center around whether you can control your own reproductive health and
in this case i don't see it at all as a religious issue because there are already religious exemptions and people who follow their conscience in making their choices so for me the policy is good public policy for the common good. >> suarez: jill warren and anthony picarello, thank you for joining me. >> thank you. >> brown: now, a political deal in greece that may pull europe back from the abyss of its two- year debt crisis. after weeks of negotiations, the coalition government of greek prime minister lucas papademos reported agreement on yet another round of austerity measures. finance minister evangelos venizelos speaking in brussels said it would satisfy the european union, the european central bank and the international monetary fund. >> after a long, tough period of negotiations, we have finally a
staff level agreement with the troika for a new, strong and credible program. >> brown: the greek goal was to win a new bailout of $170 billion and to prevent national default. under the plan, greece agreed to cut its minimum wage by more than 20%; fire 15,000 public sector employees and end dozens of job guarantee provisions. greek leaders also said that instead of cutting pensions by $400 million, they found unspecified alternative cuts. the agreement won praise from some, including christine legarde, managing director of the i.m.f., at a late-day meeting in brussels. >> there is clearly some very encouraging news coming out of athens, and after the very heavy-duty work that has been done lately, i think it's positive. >> brown: and european markets reacted favorably. stocks moved upward, the euro traded near two-month highs.
but germany warned the deal fell short. the german finance minister wolfgang schaeuble said the greeks had not met a requirement to bring national debt down to 120% of economic output. and on the streets in greece, there was outrage. >> ( translated ): we took to the streets to fight for our rights and for the future of our children. >> brown: electrical workers protested the austerity cuts, and greek labor unions planned a 48-hour strike beginning tomorrow. in the meantime, the greek finance minister said the government also had the outlines of a separate agreement with private creditors. it could cut the country's private debt in half, with creditors accepting a 70% reduction in the value of their holdings. >> brown: a short time ago, i spoke to john psaropolous in athens. he's a free-lance reporter and writes the blog, "the new athenian." john psaropolous, welcome back to the program.
these talks over cuts had stalled even last night. what was the hardest issue to resolve? >> it turns out from the comments made by the party leaders after they emerged from those eight hour long talks on wednesday that the sticking point was one sole issue: it was whether more money was going to be cut from the pensions budget in 2012, an amount to the tune of $400 million, in addition to roughly that much again that had already been decided to be taken out. the conservative leader, the junior partner in this coalition but the one who is poised to win election over and above the socialists if an election were to be held in the coming days is the one who held forth and in the comments he made earlier this evening he said that it was one of the issues that he managed to save from the clutches of the troika of greece's creditors. the other issues being
salaries... more salaries being cut from the private sector. >> suarez: so give us a sense of how... who will feel these austerity cuts and to what degree. >> well, the austerity is going to be felt by everyone because 150,000 people now employed in the public sector won't have a job at the end of four years from now. 15,000 of those people will go this year. the second thing that's going to happen in the public sector is that major utilities-- the natural gas state monopoly, the state oil refiner, the state gaming monopoly and other utilitytys like the water sewage companies-- will all have to be privatized in the first six months of this year. those are the... some of the jewels in the greek crown. those are highly profitable state companies. and so there will... one will expect more layoffs there because one of the things that is going into this austerity package is a legal amendment
that will allow the state to dismiss people from state companies that tenure immunity that they have had is going to be broken. they will be able to be dismissed. in the private sector, the pain comes in the form of a dramatic lowering of minimum wage by 22% and for those under 25 by 30%. which means their take-home pay will be a little more than 400 euros-- $550 or so. this is going to obviously severely depress the amount of disposable income in the marketplace. the main argument of the unions against this austerity package is precisely that it is going to reinforce the recessionary spiral that greece is already in and if you count the amount by which the greek economy has shrunk since the beginning of the crisis it is now 13 points of g.d.p. and rising.
>> brown: well, now, of course, you do have pushback there from all sides as we heard. the german finance minister raising concerns that this doesn't go far enough. is there a sense among greek officials that they have done all they can and that this is... this should be enough for the international community? >> well, the politicians are already spining this as an enormously difficult political birth and they have already begun to massage and to spin the message to their respective constituencies as a necessary evil. particularly the two right-wing contingents of the coalition, the people who were not responsible for putting greece on the path of european union i.m.f.-sponsored bailouts in the first place. that was done by the socialists who were elected to power in october of 2009 so the conservatives and the right wingers have a platform to at least argue that midway in medias res along this policy
route they were forced to agree a necessary evil because to opt out of the bailout system would simply have been an even worse dn an almost catastrophic option for greece. >> brown: so you do have the protesters in the streets. >>. there's a strike called for tomorrow. what can you gauge about... and then, of course, there's the parliamentary... parliament taking this up with an election on the weekend. what can you gauge about political opinion through polls or otherwise and do we know whether this is all going to actually happen as they've said today? >> well, the plan is for this bailout agreement to be submitted to parliament and voted into law on sunday night. the debate is scheduled to begin on saturday morning. however, the biggest unions in the land have organized a tour from strike partly coinciding with that debate and they have organized a protest on sunday night to coincide with the vote.
even if these demonstrations fail to dissuade lawmakers, the fact is that the political ground is slipping very, very dramatically away from the present makeup of the greek parliament. 254 seats out of the 300 are included in the three parties that form the coalition-- the socialists, the conservatives and the right wing. if you look at opinion polls now however, fully 42% of voters would go to the communists and left wing parties, parties left of the socialist. that has a dramatic shift never before seen in greek politics. it represents a threat to the incumbent powers and suggests that if an election is held in the spring-- as is widely expected-- the result may be the most unpredictable that we have seen in almost four decades. >> brown: all right, john psaropolous in athens once again speaking to us from athens. thanks so much. >> thank you.
>> brown: late today e.u. finance ministers said greece would have to make even more cuts to receive the bailout money. even if there is a new government. the e.u. nation pressing hardest for austerity is its richest, germany. margaret warner reports tonight on how that country's prosperous citizens are wary about paying bailout money to greece and other debtor nations. >> reporter: the aisles of stuttgarts markethalle are stocked full-- french cheese, italian prosciutto di parma, hand-stuffed german sausage, gourmet bread and pastries. and on a weekday morning, people are buying. >> all the people who come here, they are doing well, so we don't feel the crisis here. >> reporter: the crisis, of course, is the european financial one that's sent borrowing rates soaring for the regions most indebted countries like greece, italy, spain. it threatens to drag down the european union's economy even for its strongest member, germany.
fruit and vegetable seller michael mayer senses a cautious mood among his customers. his barometer: imported mango sales. >> ( translated ): the crisis has meant people have less money to buy daily luxuries, so they buy less. four mangoes instead of two. you buy just what you need. >> reporter: even with record low unemployment and an envied manufacturing base, germans remain ever-careful with their money. cash, not credit, is the coin of the realm. that financial prudence is complicating matters for chancellor angela merkel. her fellow e.u. members, the i.m.f. and the u.s., are urging her to devote more german money to bolster the e.u. bailout fund. but she also must listen to her own public. even on a major puchase, like a
home, germans are prudent says claus blumenauer, a real estate agency owner in the frankfurt suburb of konigstein. germany didn't experience the recent real estate bubble or crash, he said, because germans and their banks are so careful. mortgages require a 30% down payment. >> ( translated ): the germans are conservative, in regards to home and debt. of course, there are always people who don't have enough equity, or don't earn enough, and still want to buy a home. but the banks don't play ball. they, in fact, protect the customers from wrong decisions. >> reporter: and for those do buy, their goal becomes to pay down the mortgage as quickly as possible. >> ( translated ): the germans don't like debt so much. in real estate especially, most germans have the goal to have the home free from debt. that's more their philosophy than to say, let's borrow money. >> reporter: so it's no wonder they bristle at being asked to bail out their freer-spending southern neighbors.
germans are still paying for the trillions-dollar reconstruction of east germany over the past two decades. germans are note they voluntarily undertook painful austerity and reforms more than a decade ago. while much of europe embarked on a spending binge financed by the newly introduced euro. norbert walter recently retired as chief economist at deutsche bank. >> we were characterized for a considerable period as the sick man of europe. we were not the sick man of europe. we were on therapy. the standard of living of germans did not increase at all for actually a decade at a time when everybody else enjoyed a wonderful increase in the standard of living. >> reporter: germany's therapy was a national project. unions held down wage demands, industries retooled and political leaders tightened unemployment and other benefits.
it wasn't easy for a country built on a generous social welfare compact, said nils schmid, finance minister for the prosperous state of baden- wurttemberg. >> we raised the retirement age, or it will be raised step by step to the age of 67. we had to push this reform through, although it was very unpopular and still is. >> reporter: the tough medicine paid off for germany, with greater productivity in its industry and lower unemployment and government deficits. now, before agreeing to add more to the e.u.'s bailout coffers, merkel is insisting that debt- ridden countries like greece and italy enact their own tough reforms. finance minister schmid, despite being a member of the opposition party, said merkel's right to demand a quid pro quo. but he'd like to see quicker
german action on the bailout front to stave off further market turmoil. >> i think we need both. we need european solidarity. that means fixing the euro and helping other member states such as greece or portugal, but at the same time we need very strict rules concerning fiscal discipline. >> reporter: but public sentiment varies. at the landmark paulaner restaurant in stuttgart, we found three young entrepreneurs who own and run small firms. they say they all took a hit in the '08-'09 global financial crisis, but lived modestly, kept investing in their businesses and bounced back stronger than ever. now they're feeling anxious, and a bit ambivalent, about what germany's being called on to do. does the euro crisis worry you? >> yes, for sure. because you never know what will
happen at the end. >> reporter: carsten theurer is a software developer. he says he and his friends pay high taxes, and they're galled by reports that many wealthy greeks, italians and others don't. >> no one is happy about those little stories about greece, how they are doing, that they are not paying their taxes, that they are a little bit corrupt, but we are just interested in a functional and surviving euro. >> ( translated ): this euphoria about the euro which we had at the beginning, we now have to face all the errors that were made, which means spending money so this doesn't fall apart. because if greece falls, then maybe portugal and spain also fall. and then there's a big mess. >> reporter: their annoyance doesn't surprise norbert walter, but he says germans should look
to their own past before judging others incapable of changing. >> i believe if germans have benefited so much from the allied forces that accepted that the germans could be different from what they were in the third reich, we should not allow ourselves to argue the greek have always cheated, they will cheat in the indefinite future and therefore it is not worthwhile and we cannot even think of helping them. >> reporter: but try telling that to magdalena beulshausen. the 77-year-old pensioner and voter started saving as a girl, and never stopped. >> if you limited yourself a little bit, that wasn't too hard for me or my husband. >> reporter: now she has little patience for, or confidence in, her indebted european siblings.
>> ( translated ): i think it's like with an alcoholic, who you try to but cannot save before he's all the way at the bottom. now they don't want to accept that they should save and reduce their spending, but they don't want for somebody from germany to come and say, "okay, that's how you have to do it." >> reporter: proving once again that even in the 27-member european union-- all politics is local. >> suarez: in her next report, margaret looks at italy's response to the debt crisis. >> brown: finally tonight: a love story that sheds light on how society deals with the disabled. judy woodruff has our book conversation. >> woodruff: there are more than 50 million americans who have some sort of disability according to the census bureau. they range from profound-- needing a wheelchair or other
assistance with daily activity-- to less restrictive and from physical disabilities to cognitive and emotional. rachel simon has given a lot of thought to their lives, how the rest of society sees them, since her sister is intellectually impaired. she wrote a memoir in 2002 called "riding the bus with my sister." her most recent book is a novel "the story of beautiful girl." it's about the lives of two people who meet living in an institution and it follows them for four decades and rachel simon joins us now. thank you for being here. >> thank you, so wonderful to be here. >> woodruff: so, rachel, you had written the book about your sister "riding the bus with my sister." what do you think you accomplished with that book? >> gosh, well, i was transformed because i learned that during the course of my life and my sister's life there had been some major civil rights developments in the lives of people with disabilities and the major one is called self-determination, the people with disabilities have the right to choose how to live their own lives.
this started because of the closing of the institutions in which people like my sister were asked to live, forced to live for a lot of the time we have in american history. for about the last 150 years in american history. >> so after that experience, your story, your family's story, why did you want to write a novel? this is a novel about a man and a woman who were in an institution. they met, he was not intellectually disabled but he had a hearing impairment. she was intellectually impaired. could not speak. why that story? >> well, why that story and why fiction. i'll try to do that why that story first. my sister grew up at home. my sister did not grow up in an institution and this was because of funny coincidences in my family history. my father actually grew up in an orphanage and therefor he knew what institutional life was like and when we were growing up he used to say "when you live in an institution, even if someone comes to visit you-- which his father did-- you know at the
bottom of your heart you're not really loved. no child of mine will live in an institution." this was the family belief, that people deserved to be out in the world and have the same rights as everyone else and be raised with the family. which my sister was. i then wrote "riding the bus with my sister." it led my to do a lot of public speaking and i met people who didn't have the experience my sister had, who had lived in institutions and i felt like their stories were not being heard. a lot of people in america don't even know we had institutions for people with intellectual disabilities. all they think of are people who had psychiatric issues. but there's a whole separate system of institutions for people like my sister and we still have them in america. >> woodruff: and the story... you took two people, you had them essentially fall in love, have a baby and then you follow them for several decades. >> yes. >> woodruff: why did you want to do it that way? >> sometimes stories find you. this story emerged from my pen without me planning to do it. i'd been thinking for years about writing something about
institutions and the people who lived in them from the point of view of the people who lived in them, not the point of view of other people and one day i started writing, i do write by hand and it started coming out that there was the character of beautiful girl also known as lenny who had an sbi check which you will disability and whose parents put her in an institution in the late 1950s and then the man who was a john doe, john doe number 42 who was deaf. he was based on a real-life person who i discovered in a book called "god knows his name, the true story of john doe number 24" by a writer. i came across that book, it was about an african american deaf teenager found in 1945 wandering the streets in 1945, no one who knew he was. he was put in an institution for people called feebleminded and he was there for 50 years until he died. and i thought i need to write about this character. >> woodruff: the fact that it's a novel, non-fiction, the fact that it's fiction, what did that
allow you to do in terms of telling the story of how society treats people? >> as a sibling of somebody with a disability... my sister is only 11 months younger than i am. i spent my life translating the world for her and translating her to the world and so to the extent possible i understand how her mind works and to be able to write it as fiction i was able to pulley enter the mind of a character like my sister and the gentleman who is the male character in the story and write it from their points of view as well as the point of view of an aide who works with them and a retired schoolteacher who ends up being involved in the whole story who who we've left out of this. so to where it from multiple points of view that there are all of these people who are involved in the lives of disabilities and the people themselves and we don't give equal weight to the stories and we neverer what from the people with disabilities. i wanted to do it from their point of view, see the world through their eyes and show the world not just how the world
treats them but how they feel about how the world treats them. >> woodruff: you clearly seem to feel that their point of view, the point of view of people with disabilities, is just not understood. it's not given respect. it's not treated in a dignified way. they're infantalized, they're ignored, made fun of. i think it's so incredible important that if you are somebody who feels a passion for people with disabilities because you have a loved one who has a disability but you need to fight for their rights and i've always felt that way of my sister's sister but because i can write it gave me the ability to do that in a book that therefore has led other people to seeing the world through the eyes of people like my sister. i've had so many people say "you know, when i go to the supermarket and there's the guy with down syndrome bagging my groceries, i'll never look at him the same way again." that means a lot. >> woodruff: rachel simon, the
book is "the story of beautiful girl." your sixth book, thank you very much for talking with us. >> thank you so much, thank you. >> suarez: again, the major developments of the day: >> suarez: 49 states and five big banks agreed a $25 billion deal to help millions of homeowners fend off foreclosure. president obama granted waivers to ten states, excusing them from requirements of the "no child left behind" law. on our web site, it's science thursday. hari sreenivasan explains. >> sreenivasan: a team of russian scientists has drilled into a massive lake in antarctica that has been sealed off for millions of years. find the details of the decades long expedition on our science page. all that and more is on our web site: newshour.pbs.org. ray? >> suarez: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm ray suarez. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening with mark shields and david brooks among others. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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